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The Perfect Easter Lunch: Jerk Lamb With Guava Sauce

 

Easter’s here! Amid all the chocolate we’ll be scoffing, we’ll most definitely be sitting down to a special Easter meal of roast lamb like millions of other families up and down the country.

But this year I fancied an Easter lunch with a bit a twist. Rather than the usual minted roast lamb, I thought about serving a roast lamb with a jerk seasoning and served with roasted sweet potatoes. I remember watching Jamaican chef Virginia Burke on a food programme where she cooked a delicious looking jerk lamb; a contemporary take on the classic jerk chicken. I remember Burke saying at the time: “We have the best food in the Caribbean but nobody knows about it.”

And she’s absolutely right! I have been a big fan of Jamaican food – in fact all Caribbean – for years and I’m really surprised that it’s not more well known because I’m sure it would really take off in a big way – in quite the same way that Indian or Thai food has.

If you’ve never tried Caribbean food, you really don’t know what you’re missing. Try Virginia Burke’s recipe for jerk lamb with a yummy guava sauce. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

JERKED LAMB WITH GUAVA SAUCE

Ingredients

For the jerk seasoning
•6 spring onions
•2 scotch bonnet peppers
•1 tsp ground allspice
•1 tbsp thyme, chopped
•2 tsp ground cinnamon
•1 tsp nutmeg, grated
•1 tsp brown sugar
•1.5 tsp salt
•1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
•75 ml white malt vinegar, distilled
•1 tbsp oil

For the guava dipping sauce
•1 heads garlic
•1 tsp olive oil
•175 g guava jelly, or redcurrant jelly
•2 tbsp white wine vinegar
•1 tsp hot pepper sauce, (optional, for added heat)

For the lamb

•3 tbsp jerk seasoning
•2.5 kg leg of lamb, boned
•2 cloves garlic, crushed

To serve
•1 tsp parsley, fresh, chopped
•1 tsp coriander, fresh, chopped

Method

1. Place the ingredients for the jerk seasoning into a blender and whiz to a thick paste.

2. Rub the jerk seasoning and salt thoroughly into the lamb. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.

3. Set the oven to 180C/gas 4.

4. Rub the crushed garlic on the inside of the lamb leg. Roll up the leg and tie in three places to secure. Roast for 45 minutes for medium rare – add about 15 minutes cooking time for well-done lamb.

5. To make the dipping sauce, cut off the top of a whole head of garlic. Pour over the olive oil, wrap it in foil and roast for about 15-20 minutes, until soft.

6. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and crush them in a saucepan. Add the guava jelly and white wine vinegar. Stir until the guava jelly has dissolved, add the hot pepper sauce (if using) and bring to a simmer. Cook for five minutes.

7. Allow the lamb to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Just before serving, stir the parsley and coriander into the sauce. Slice the lamb and serve immediately with the warm sauce.

 

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Hassle-Free Cocktails and Canapes Chez Mrs. D

Entertaining must be my middle name – I LOVE it. I love nothing better than having a crowd of people over, and  dare I say it, I’m well known for my cocktails and canapés. If it were possible, I’d be having cocktail and canapé nights every night. It’s simple but impressive if you’re having a lot of people over although it can require a lot of effort. I tend to make very fruity cocktails so there’s a lot of chopping, crushing and pureeing going on. And canapés, unless you keep them really simple, can be quite fiddly to prepare. Furthermore, when ever I invite people over, it usually tends to be a very last minute thing so I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been running around like a crazy woman trying to get everything ready in time before the doorbell starts ringing. Goodness knows what I’d do if I regularly put on four-course dinner parties!

That’s not to say that the hard work isn’t worth it because when I hear the raucous laughter and non-stop chatter above the already very loud music, see the empty dishes and knocked-over cocktail glasses (accidentally of course) and know that everyone’s having a damn good time, then it’s most definitely worth it.

But there are ways of hosting a great cocktails and canapés night without feeling as though you are in danger of committing murder beforehand. Here are some great tips to hosting the perfect C&C evenings Mrs. D style:

BECOME THE COCKTAIL QUEEN

If like me you are very last minute dot com or you simply dread having unexpected guests, it’s a good idea to make sure you have some stand-by items ready in the fridge or cupboard. There isn’t really much need to stock up on ultra expensive ingredients that you’re probably never going to use again. We all remember the fairy tale about the magic stone soup and it’s true – with limited ingredients and a lot of imagination you can come up with something quite impressive:

  1. I always have at least one bottle of wine, rum or vodka ready to act as the base for a good cocktail so always make sure you have a bottle of something tucked away for ’emergencies’.
  2. Always make sure you’re never out of ice.
  3. You can cheat by using a cocktail mixer pack where all you have to do is add alcohol and serve.
  4. I can’t think of any fruits that can’t be used in a cocktail, either sliced, pureed or muddled and strained so let your fruit bowl be your best friend!
  5. Herbs and spices such as basil, mint, lemongrass and ginger and even chilli can really give your cocktails a much needed kick – just remember not to overdo it!
  6. Cola, lemonade, sparkling water and various types of juices make great mixers.
  7. Never underestimate the importance of the humble lemon (or lime.) The zest and juice can be added to the alcohol; the fruit can be sliced, and the peel can be used for decoration.
  8. When all else fails, cooled sugar syrup + lemon juice + alcohol + ice + soda + lemon slice = inexpensive yet impressive cocktail!
  9. Don’t forget to frost the rims of the glasses with sugar.
  10. If you do have time to prepare, freeze either fruit juice, coffee, cola, tea lemonade etc. to avoid watery cocktails.

Also remember that it’s not all about the alcohol (strange coming from me, I know!) as you may have guests who don’t drink. Where possible simply omit the alcohol in their drinks, substitute it with a flavoured syrup if necessary or top up with more ginger ale, lemonade, soda etc.

THE EASIEST CANAPES EVER

Canapés and antipasti platters are traditionally nibbles served to guests as they arrive and as they are a precursor to a main meal, they tend to be light. However, it’s not uncommon now for people to forgo a sit-down meal in order to serve an array of canapés, especially if they are having a lot of guests or want to keep things informal.

  • So unless you’re planning a party with lots of guests, keep the antipasto fairly simple so you don’t override the the main meal. You could perhaps serve two or three dishes from the list below along with some fruit, nuts and bread.
  • If you’re planning on serving a main meal, then the  antipasto should complement the meal you’re planning.
  • Think about the appearance and fragrance of the food; blending flavors, aromas and colours will create interesting antipasto plates.

We’d all love to do a Delia when it comes to entertaining but let’s face it – we don’t all have time to stuff quail eggs or make pastry from scratch. Neither do we have the patience or finances to track down obscure, expensive  ingredients which can probably only be ordered online. So if you’re pushed for time – or money – cheat! Make the most of your local, supermarket, grocer or deli. And if you’re fortunate enough to live near a farmer’s market, so much the better!

Here’s a list of simple nibbles you could include as part of your canapés:

  • Jarred marinated artichoke hearts
  • Water crackers
  • Various types of cheese
  • Sliced or cherry tomatoes marinated in dressing
  • Olives
  • Cold meat slices
  • Different types of bread
  • Slices or chunks of fresh fruit
  • Jarred roasted peppers
  • Garlic hummus and pita bread
  • Sardines and sweet onions
  • Capers
  • Sweet pickles, chutneys and relishes
  • Cold shrimp
  • Roasted nuts
  • Homemade garlic bread
  • Grilled deli vegetables
  • Marinated fresh mozzarella
  • Anchovies

You could also decide what you’d like to be the key component in your antipasti platter ie. – meat, vegetables, fish etc. and then base other nibbles around them:

Meat:  a selection of natural deli meats – pepperoni, salami and prosciutto etc. — then add mixed olives, brie, deviled eggs, roasted vegetables and crackers.

Vegan: vegetable crudités, marinated olives or olive tapenade, pitta bread, roasted peppers, vegetarian stuffed dolmas and roasted garlic hummus.

 

Seafood:  fish roe, sardines, anchovies, seared fresh tuna and smoked salmon, crackers served with cream cheese, sliced marinated onions and capers.

Fresh Fruit and Nuts: Serve chunks of melon, figs and pomegranate alongside  deli meats, and then add toasted walnuts and roasted, salted pistachios.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese: roasted veggies e.g. – baby aubergines, beets, bell peppers,courgettes, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, onions and garlic. (Look for roasted vegetables in the prepared foods section of the store, or simply toss raw veggies with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a 450°F oven until tender.) Served with tangy cheeses like feta, Gruyère or aged Manchego.

Cheese and More Cheese: Look for out-of-the-ordinary cheeses like Rustica cheese with red peppers or black peppercorns, rosemary coated Manchego, Caciotta cheese with green olives, Gouda with mustard seeds or cumin, drunken goat cheese made with red wine and Sotocenere cheese with truffles and a hint of cinnamon. Then combine them with a few traditional ones like provolone or fresh mozzarella. Serve with crusty bread, olives, deli meats, fruit, crackers, pickles and chutneys.

 

I’ve included an example of a super simple antipasti platter and a quick and easy cocktail. Hardly any fuss at all with easily found ingredients.

ANTIPASTI PLATTER

 

INGREDIENTS:

125g grissini

240g sunblush tomatoes

225g queen green olives

70g Napoli salami

70g Milano salami

70g sliced chorizo

80g Parma ham

METHOD:

Arrange the selection of canapés on a breadboard or platter.

APPLE AND CINNAMON SPARKLE

 

INGREDIENTS:

200ml vodka

300ml sparkling apple drink

1 green apple, sliced

6 cinnamon sticks

METHOD:

  1. Mix vodka and sparkling apple drink.
  2. Pour into martini glasses.
  3. Garnish with a slice of apple and a cinnamon stick.

What could be simpler! Enjoy!

 

Armchair Masterchefs

 

My husband and I pretty much gave up on television a while back. No matter how many channels there were, there still didn’t seem to be anything worth watching. But there are still some shows we make time to watch religiously. At a risk of sounding like a couple of oldies who have nothing better to do, Mr. D. and I are addicted to culinary competitions which seem to be all the rage on television these days: Come Dine With Me, The Great British Bake Off, Masterchef, Next Great Baker… you name it, we watch it! In fact it’s more than watching it’s become a full scale obsession. We must tune in to see what happens next: who stays… and who goes. Oops! That’s Big Brother which we don’t watch!

 

 

We have a lot of fun watching these shows. They’re entertaining and informative but they can also be quite depressing. Why? Because after years of thinking that I’m a pretty good cook (I’m no Heston but I’m not bad either) I’ve suddenly realised that compared to the contestants who take part in these shows, my cooking skills leave a lot to be desired. I’ve come to this conclusion after realizing that:

  • My pastry making skills are far from perfect (as explained by Mr. Hollywood and Ms. Berry.)
  • I have no idea how to make sushi – even though I love to eat it!
  • There is a tendancy for me to overcook food (as pointed out by Mr. D!)
  • I can really only bake cakes when I have a little help from my friend Betty Crocker.
  • Rare, medium rare, medium, well done… it’s all the same to me!
  • I’ve lost the ability to poach a decent egg.
  • I’ve never heard of half of the ingredients mentioned in the show.
  • There is no way I can chop onions, apples, carrots etc. so that all the pieces are virtually identical.
  • I have no idea how to debone a duck.
  • There’s very little chance of me being able to adequately filet a fish.
  • I don’t have the kind of palette where I can successfully identify every ingredient in a dish.
  • It’s really not a good idea for me to attempt to flambé anything…
  • Me and sharp knives are a dangerous combination so it’s really not a good idea for me to go at the speed of the professional chefs or the other contestants.
  • I like to take my time in the kitchen – that probably explains why we never eat before 10pm.
  • I probably don’t add as much seasoning as I should.
  • I love eating shellfish – but haven’t got a clue how to prepare it.
  • This may be an Anglo-Italian household but there is no freshly made pasta in this house as neither of us know how to prepare it!
  • If I cook fish so that the skin is super crispy, it’ll be burnt.
  • We like to drench our food in sauce – none of this ‘little smidgeon’ business.
  • We also like large portions in this house!
  • I haven’t got a clue how to make ketchup or barbeque sauce from scratch.
  • I’ve never used most of the gadgets and kitchen appliances I’ve seen.

 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ve learnt a lot from watching these shows and have got lots of new ideas.  We like to put what we’ve learnt into practice:

  • I can make bruschetta better than I did before.
  • I now know what goes into making honeycomb.
  • I know how to remove bones from fish easily.
  • I know the secret to a good pesto sauce.
  • Seasoning is important!
  • So is not overcooking food!
  • Garnishes are important but there should also have a purpose other than just decoration.
  • We come across lots of new flavour combinations.
  • I know that you should never wash sea urchin (not that I’m likely to cook it!)
  • we’re trying to put into practice that less is more!
  • I know what’s meant by tunnel boning.
  • I also know what a ballotine is.
  • I know how to pronounce words such as ‘coulis’ and ‘melange’.
  • I see the contestants mistakes and know what NOT to do.

 

 

I still have an awful lot to learn and I’m getting there slowly. There’s still hope for me. But I know that no matter how much I learn, I would never want a dressing down from Mr. Hollywood or Mr. Ramsay so there’s no chance of me ever entering one of these competitions. I know which side of the television screen is the safest for all concerned!

 

 

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